Picture an airplane. Close your eyes if that helps. Look in the cockpit and picture that airplane with four pilots. One of them is a dashing Englishman with flying credits that date all the way back to Zeppelins. The second pilot has flown some of the most legendary planes in the history of flying. One of the pilots is a hot chick pilot who is not above using her sexy feminine wiles to get her plane up where she wants it. The last pilot is me.
That is what this last few weeks has felt like. Blue Sky Riders, that terrific new band that everyone in my house is talking about, has been in the studio for days recording the last five songs of our record. Kenny, Georgia and I wrote the songs and now have brought in Peter Asher to help produce them. This time we did it here in Nashville. This was a subtle passive-aggressive move on our part to keep Kenny and Peter off balance and make it easier to bend them to our will. He who controls the snacks controls the tracks. (I just made up that expression and I fully expect it to sweep the recording industry!)
It did not work out that way. I was out passive-aggressived at every turn.
One song had me playing a mandolin. I play the mandolin the way Willie Mays played the mandolin. That is to say when I play one it sounds like I am hitting it with a bat. It takes a shitload of concentration to not screw up and ruin a take so I am sitting and strumming with my tongue stuck out the side of my mouth while the other three are being “creative” and leaving me in the dust. This was not unnoticed by Georgia who from that point on suggested “a little touch of mandolin ” on every subsequent song.
One song needed to have the drum kit completely covered by blankets. We were searching for a “sound.” This sound apparently was similar to the sound of pots and pans being struck under my parents’ comforter. I was so amused by this that I spent the whole song staring slack-jawed at John the drummer hitting the blankets when I should have been coming up with ideas for the song the blankets were accompanying.
One song took two days to get right. We started it at the end of the first day and then left it to try again at the end of the second day. I swear you couldn’t tell the difference between the days. Granted, the second day we sounded a little older…. but pretty identical. This song was a song we had recorded before… You’re Not The Boss of Me. We even made a video of it on our website with little cartoons drawn by a moron. We decided between then and now that the song should be played in a totally different way. (Professionally) This version leaves the old one in the dust. It makes the old version sound like the desperate wailings of a drunken clown drowning at sea. (The title, by the way, of one of the chapters of my autobiography… “Desperate Wailings of a Drunken Clown … My College Years”). I would love to say I had a lot to do with this recording but they made the mistake of pulling the blankets off the drums and piling them in the corner where a certain mandolin player could find them and build himself a studio fort. When I woke up the song was done. Magic.
We did two more songs but my memory gets hazy. I remember flashes of light and laughter. Some hugging and a few hard words. Downbeats missed and instruments dropped on the floor in petulant childish anger. Good times.
Peter and Kenny and Georgia were their usual fantastic, creative selves. I kept the gang loose with a heavy balance of whimsy and work. The songs will dazzle you when and if they get finished. We have a lot of work to do before we are done and getting all four of us in the same cockpit on the same flight is never easy…. (See first paragraph to understand that reference) but it’s a fun flight so far and unless we are the Amelia Earharts of pop, we should land this thing with a minimum of damage.